The Water Dancer: An Evening with Ta-Nehisi Coates
Time & Location
About the Event
In only a decade’s time, Ta-Nehisi Coates has produced some of our country’s most seminal pieces of non-fiction writing. Whether in personal narratives like Between the World and Me or reportage like “The Case for Reparations,” his luminous prose and gift for examining our most urgent struggles through a historical and cultural lens has transformed our notions of what non-fiction can do. Now comes Coates’ breathtaking debut novel, The Water Dancer, a boldly imagined work of magic and adventure, love and separation, and the power of resistance. It is the story of America’s oldest struggle—the struggle to tell the truth.
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage—and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child. Hiram, who is gifted with a mysterious power, almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn’t understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away.
So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, all Hiram wants is to return to the Walker Plantation to free the family he left behind—but to do so, he must first master his magical gift and reconstruct the story of his greatest loss.
Just as Mr. Coates’s reportage was built on intensive study of his chosen subjects, so too is The Water Dancer. He spent over a decade researching this book, visiting historic sites such as Monticello, Shirley Planation, the Whitney Plantation and combing through primary documents, with an emphasis on the oral histories taken from enslaved people.
Mr. Coates will be interviewed by poet, essayist, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib, author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Go Ahead in the Rain, and A Fortune For Your Disaster. He is a co-founder, with Eve Ewing, Ed.D. (FAN ’18) of the Echo Hotel poetry collective.